Sunday, August 17, 2008

Robin Miller Spices Up "Wind Tunnel"


The buzz across the NASCAR chat-rooms was pretty simple. Robin Miller was joining Dave Despain on Sunday night for Wind Tunnel.

Miller, now a SPEED employee, is slowly becoming a good sounding board for a wide variety of motorsports issues. With Ed Hinton long gone to ESPN.com, Miller is now front-and-center where NASCAR is concerned.

While Despain has Darrell Waltrip as a occasional guest, it is only when Miller is on the show that Despain can pull-out all the stops and return Wind Tunnel to what it was intended to be.

Originally, Wind Tunnel was supposed to be the Larry King Live of motorsports. Despain was to be on almost every night, talking with all the big names of racing and covering all the top stories. It was a great idea that failed spectacularly.

Now, Despain hosts the only remaining slice of the Wind Tunnel pie for an hour on Sunday nights. When Miller is in the chair to Despain's right, it does not take these two long to hit high gear.

"It was just a couple of janitors," said Miller about who put the magic magnets on the Gibbs car before the post-race dyno test. "I don't know if I am ever going to be able to watch a NASCAR race the same way." Apparently, the revelation that cheating existed in NASCAR had affected Miller deeply.

He then compared JD Gibbs statements to the media to Michael Waltrip's rambling apology last year at Daytona. Miller was suggesting that nothing really happens on a NASCAR team without someone in management making it happen.

"Everybody feels like a step-child of ESPN except NASCAR," said Miller of the new IRL TV contract. ESPN took the Indy 500 and a couple of other races and left town. Miller went on to detail the pain of the IRL in trading-off the exposure of ESPN for the expanded programming commitment that the Comcast-owned Versus network brought to the table.

Miller's biggest point was that other than the exposure on The SPEED Report and Wind Tunnel, the IRL is never mentioned on TV outside of the races. RPM2Night is long gone.

"Trucks are for towing racecars," continued Miller. Despain was comparing the NASCAR title sponsorship package for the Craftsman Trucks valued at 7 million with the entire IRL title sponsorship of ten million dollars. Of course, that included the Indy 500. Miller's point was that the IRL was undervalued as NASCAR's third tier series was very close to it in sponsorship dollars.

Miller and Despain continually lament the fact that talented USAC drivers now seem to be destined for NASCAR. With the limited rides in the newly-combined IRL, one viewer asked if forming a new open wheel series was a possibility. "That is like forming a second LPGA Tour," said Miller. He suggested a couple of schedule changes and some more horsepower will fix the IRL very nicely.

Responding to a caller who was talking about the wasted open-wheel talent currently struggling in NASCAR, Miller fired a closing salvo. "I think somebody should hire AJ Allmendinger and put him in an open-wheel car because that's where that kid belongs and he wins races," said Miller. An interesting way to close what had been a very diverse hour of motorsports topics.

There are very few racing journalists left on the motorsports scene. Miller has survived some rough times and seems to have found a home at SPEED. This Wind Tunnel program could easily have gone two hours and still kept the energy high. Miller has the ability to switch between series and keep things in perspective, even while voicing his sometimes controversial opinions.

For those who watched Despain struggle through Inside NEXTEL Cup Racing for several seasons, this Sunday program was interesting. Despain was full of smiles and laughter and did a fantastic job of directing traffic and keeping things on the move. This is the Despain that first came to SpeedVision many years ago to become the Larry King of motorsports.

Robin Miller certainly should have a higher visibility on SPEED. The only problem is that there is so little non-racing motorsports programming remaining on the network that he has nowhere to go.

Outside of the SPEED Stage at NASCAR events and the three hours on Sunday nights, SPEED itself has no "good ride" to put Miller in for the rest of the season. Maybe, he can learn to drive a tow truck. That should move him to prime-time.

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38 comments:

Richard in N.C. said...

Robin Miller would make an absolutely perfect Wind Tunnel fill-in for Dave D. when Dave goes off to hibernate after Thanksgiving, but I bet the mere thought of such (without a watchdog for Robin) would bring on severe chest pains among SPEED executives. Sure hope SPEED exec's or Rupert Murdoch read TDP!

Sophia said...

I LOVE Robin Miller and WT NEEDS to be TWO HOURS!! Fastest HOUR IN TV!

And with Robin on, it's the blink of an eye. I agree Richard, let him fill in or at least have WT be on another night with Robin.

It STINKS I wont get to watch IRL next year but I will STILL watch Robin every chance I get (few and far between!!) on Speed Report and rare WT appearances,

Oh, if somebody can give me an EASY way to find his columns on that trainwreck SPEED site, lemme know.

I find him hilarious but I know he is not everybody's cup of tea. I just look at the guy and start laughing out loud.

If you want to boost open wheel exposure, give ROBIN his own show on SPEED. Maybe on Monday nights. :)

Anonymous said...

Sophia said...
"It STINKS I wont get to watch IRL next year"


Why wont you be able to watch them? You don't receive the Versus channel? That's odd because I get it on basic cable here.

Sophia said...

Anon

NOPE! I called TW..they have it all around us..it USED to be here when it was the OUTDOOR NETWORK but got dropped right after we got SPEED and digital 2 years ago.

They have it north of us 45 minutes, east 1 hr and west, 45 minutes. GO figure. Lots of IRL fans from the Ohio are too..this stinks. :(

I just read Robin's article that the ratings are very low...118,000 for some races!! Heck, so many fewer homes have Versus and it's a TEN YEAR CONTRACT! Oy vey.

Pitiful....thankfully I can at least watch SR and WT for info and see 5 races a year.

As long as I can get my Robin Miller fix on SPEED, I shall settle for that...but the man STILL deserves a show imo.

Get those SPEED EXECS some beta blockers and see some ratings on that station with Robin at the helm..maybe team him with one of the F1 announcer guys to keep Robin in line. :)

Sophia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Richard in N.C. said...

SOPHIA- Do any of the radio stations in the area carry the IRL radio network? I've never checked, but I would imagine the IRL website has a list of radio stations. I've picked it up a couple of times from a (who would guess) NC station.

Sophia said...

Thanks, Richard but no IRL stations except for one that carries the Indy 500 race...but i read they have their own network.

I HOPE there will still be free places to listen online next year...not as handy and I HATE not being able to walk around the house but would beat zero.

Heck hard to find MRN around here and the FM station has a strong signal.

Last year we had a handful of MRN stations on small AM stations but it was like radio station roulette. They would cancel races for football, and other junk...like other posters have mentioned. But I will double check the IRL site again. Thanks for mentioning it.

Oh, sorry for the deletion folks..my earlier post froze up on the site and got posted twice.

Site was probably sick of seeing my name here so much today. :)

Anonymous said...

IRL needs more than a schedule change. The aerial shots yesterday looked just like an IRL tace- cars separated by hubdreds of yards. Michigan Cup races are almost never races, just fast spread-out parades.

Anonymous said...

If SPEED were to eliminate their version of paid programming , Truck U , Chop Cut , Unique Whips , that hideous Garage show , and many , many others , they would have plenty of room for Robin Miller . Mind you , he would require a full time handler , and he does tend to play fast and loose with the facts sometimes , but you can;t deny he is entertaining .
The IRL broadcasts will be far above anything NASCAR does because the IRL won't be using the same old retread producers, diectors , and on air " talent " that we are forced to endure in the Nationwide and Cup shows .

Gymmie said...

sophia--if you click on one of his articles there's an "author alert" option. click on that and it'll email you links when he (or anyone else you want updates on) posts a new article :)

majors house said...

Robin Miller is a breath of frsh air and it is high time that Speed found a place for him. I wish that Wind Tunnel was two hours too and he and Dave DeSpain could co-host it because the two fo them are great and if not that, then maybe he could replace the horrible Jerry Punch on ESPN.

Anonymous said...

miller is great when combined with someone like despain. not sure how he'd be solo, i think a lot of the energy comes from their chemistry. would love to see more of both of them for sure.

and yes, that speed website is terrible to navigate. ever try to find the link to get the picture of the week from the TWIC show? jeez! how hard can they make it? finally bookmarked it, then they moved it on me! that was not nice ;)

majors house said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
majors house said...

I agree that the Speed web site is terrible and they need to do something to make using it easier.

glenc1 said...

It's interesting--I always had the impression that so many NASCAR people hated Robin because of his skepticism about their sport...and I find him funny and interesting (one doesn't necessarily have to agree with him). I enjoy Robin's visits, Dave needs his other hour back.

While I enjoy truck races, I do feel that the entire purpose of it was for the manufacturers to sell trucks. His comments made me laugh, but I do lament the lack of exposure for the IRL. I do have Versus on standard cable, fortunately. But open wheel series need a show like Dave's, and a guy like Robin to be be a cheerleader for them (even if he's a grumpy cheerleader...) I agree though, not sure he could fly on his own.

Anonymous said...

I loved Robin Miller on wind tunnel. As for the IRL contract, I want to see it do good.....but I dont see that happening. Versus is not available to many. I believe SPIKETV is available to more viewers and we all know how that worked out for ChampCar.

I think the decesion by the IRL to move to versus is a bad one UNLESS versus and cable providers are willing to add the channel to more homes. The NHL stanley cup playoffs took some huge hits in the ratings when they moved to versus and I think the same can be said for the IRL.

There are so many more networks that I think the IRL could have looked at. What at Turner Sports? TBS, TNT? FX?

Kevin in SoCal said...

For once I agree with Sophia, Robin Miller is awesome and Wind Tunnel should be on two hours on Sunday nights. If not two then 1 1/2 hours, minimum. Dave and Robin are great together and I always enjoy the show more when they are on together. The only thing better was when they had Ed Hinton on at the same time, but I guess that wont happen again.

Anonymous said...

Robin Miller only works effectively when he's paired with Despain.

A little of Miller is great, but it would be very easy to have too much of him.

Anonymous said...

I really miss Robin Miller's articles in the Indianapolis Star. I live near Indy and was really disappointed when he left (or was fired) from the paper. He's the most entertaining racing reporter alive today.

glenc1 said...

I could be wrong, but I thought the Versus numbers were something like 73 million homes vs. ESPN with 98? I mean, that's not *that* bad (unless you're the one without it...), and it should improve. It wasn't that long ago that FX had numbers like that (and I didn't have it until 2001.) But I didn't realize VS was Comcast owned (although my cable system is Time-W and I have it anyways.) I do think they added it because of the hockey. About the same time, our company added a Time-W sports channel that carries more local stuff.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Glen,

Comcast has decided to go after ESPN and they bought Versus and moved it to Philly.

They are in the middle of spending a lot of money to try and get live sports even as the Comcast systems are in the middle of moving Versus to better channel numbers and offering it on basic cable.

Make no mistake, Comcast wants to have a full national cable sports network and they have the money and power to do it. You know how many cable systems ESPN owns?

That would be none. Know how many cable systems pay ESPN one of the highest fees to carry the two main networks? That would be all.

Trust me, this is the beginning of a huge powerplay in pro sports between two big corporations.

Should be fun to watch.

JD

Richard in N.C. said...

I am convinced that the same person who created Unique Blips also designed the SPEED website - first you have to watch the paint dry.

I am a big NASCAR fan, but I would love to see Robin Miller on SPEED more often - especially once a month on Trading Paint.

glenc1 said...

I'm all for a war if it brings us better/more/competitive programming. As I said, I would expect that 'number of homes' to grow rapidly. But it always seems to come down to rate hikes and the customer being the loser, like the flap over the Yankees network or the NFL Network, where many viewers were left out while it was being fought (one of the reason I have satellite...)

cvt said...

JD, first thanks for taking the time to write about Miller. He's a polarizing figure, but few would criticize his knowledge or love of motorsports.(the second I wrote that I began doubting the wisdom of posting this)I often differ with his propensity to look in the rearview mirror instead of through the windshield, but hey, I disagree with my wife half the time!

Describing Despain in terms of Larry King is a low blow...King reads questions and never pays attention to the responses.

Your comment about Comcast and the attempt to go after ESPN begs the question: who's going to staff it?
The candidate pool of motorsports literate on-air talent ain't that large and it seems most are already contracted.

Daly Planet Editor said...

cvt,

You know the sports TV motto: "If you will pay for it, they will come."

Where do you think those monthly Comcast payments are going? :)

JD

Sophia said...

I called TW again and the girl said "a few others had called" asking for Versus but TW has to decide if it would be profitable..yada, yada..but it's the MAIN CITY market it does not want yet in the SAME COUNTIES some are getting it and we are in a northern city?? MAKES NO SENSE the politics of how cable companies 'select' certain stations?

It sure as hello makes me wish for ala carte cable stations.

Unless 1000 or more call demanding the station for IRL, and even then it's doubtful, I am not holding my breath..but we have more crappy channels and I can't believe THEY are profitable...three Women's Lifetime Network junk for one, three religious stations, 2 full time and another shopping channel?

AND one FULL TIME nothing but infomercial channels...I kid you not.

sigh

But back to Robin, it's a shame many NASCAR fans hate him...I just don't take some of his comments seriously and his sarcastic humor or expressions make me laugh out loud.

Sadly SPEED will never give him a show because he is NOT PC.

Rockin Rich said...

Re – JD @4:49 PM today:

The flippin monthly payments, (increased twice inside of 12 months here – Waynesboro, Va.), are paying for the greatly increased advertising that "bombcast", (Comcan't?), has been doing for the last eight or so months. Meanwhile, the quality of service<(QOS), compared to the bankrupt, (literally, and morally), Adelphia Cable they took over from has gone south. Lots of complaints here about them, but, as you would expect, to no avail.

It certainly would be interesting to see a credible competitor give ESPN a fight. I just don't think Comcan't will be the one to do it effectively.

Tracy said...

Rockin' Rich - Amen to Comcan't. I'm still waiting for Speed on HD. I HATE this system, but it sure beats the horrid customer service from the Verizon Fios **__&&*(*()*.

Whoever said Robin Miller would be great on Trading Paint - what a brilliant idea! Get that show a shot of R.Miller and let 'er rip.

Jo said...

Sophia - do let TimeW know the subsidy company of theirs ( Brighthouse in Tampa)has Versus on basic tier service -

I don't agree w Robin Miller often, but, he states his case clearly
("Trucks are for towing race cars")
he doesn't mince words or kiss up.
Yup give him a show - or put him on Trading Paint - or both. Get the execs (& Kyle) beta blockers (& valium - I might suggest)

I love it when he & Dave get together, never know whats gonna be said. Its always interesting.

glenc1 said...

My friend in FL calls it 'Comcraps', lol, but Comcan't is pretty good. Mind you, I have had many choice names for T-W over the years too, we never had Speed until they put it on digital in about 2002. Heck, where I grew up we didn't even have cable til '85 and we walked to school five miles in our snowshoes...
:)

Reminds me of Tony Stewart laughing about Joey Logano not knowing what rabbit ears were. Anyways, Sophia, all you can do is keep asking--and ask all your friends to call even if they hate racing, lol. BTW, a lot of those stations you mention cable gets for free (shopping & religious channels, foreign language, I think too.) So they're not why the rates are high.

Their argument is always that a la carte will cost you a lot more. Once they (T-W) had a plan with a bunch of channels I could pay for per month in addition to standard for a buck or two, I thought that was fair.

Gymmie said...

I have TW here in DFW and we have Vs. not sure which level as I have digital...but I think it's on the expanded basic. It's in the group of sports channels with ESPN, the Deuce, Spike, Golf and FSN. ESPNews & Classic are on the digital teir by the digital ESPN channels.

We had Comcast up until about 2 or 3 years ago when TW took over...still get the Slowski's commercial from time to time for some odd reason. Never really had issues with them here or in Cali.

I do love Robin as well! I'd watch him :). I remember when we had an hour of Dave every night! It was great! He definitely tried to give the other sports a word in during that show. There was this one off weekend where he thought he'd be able to talk about the 2 wheel boyz and others for once but still it ended up once again being all NA$CAR all the time.

Anonymous said...

Maybe if IRL got rid of the vacumn cleaners and went back to front engine roadsters they would actually have real races and maybe even some fans! Quit trying to emulate F1 and appeal to US race fans.

Anonymous said...

I LOVE IT when Robin is on Windfunnel. I'm a NASCAR fan and I love the fact the Robin minces no words when discussing NASCAR news. Mix him in on Monday nite with Mikie NASCAR and let the fun begin. That would be some real TV right there

Uncle Dan said...

When Robin Miller is on Wind Tunnel my TV goes to another channel. What an annoying person.

Anonymous said...

Robin Miller is the only guy worth listening to on Speed. I'm glad he isn't reliant on NASCAR because you know they'd find some lame reason to pull his credentials.
I know I'm probably in the minority, but I actually watch quite a bit of Versus. I love hockey, enjoy the WEC and can't wait to see if they can help bring Indy car racing back to a production level it deserves.

Richard in N.C. said...

JD- If Comcast is going to try to build a competitor to ESPN, could it make sense for Comcast to try to do a deal with FOX Sports for some sort of joint venture for content?

Daly Planet Editor said...

Richard,

The Fox Sports guys just come and go when they do events on the Fox Broadcast Network.

The FoxSportsNet guys just handle the Regional Sports Networks around the nation that show NBA, MLB and NHL action.

Comcast wants its own national cable network to compete with ESPN for product when all is said and done.

JD

teema said...

Sophia said
"But back to Robin, it's a shame many NASCAR fans hate him...I just don't take some of his comments seriously and his sarcastic humor or expressions make me laugh out loud.

Sadly SPEED will never give him a show because he is NOT PC."

I love when Robin is on...anything!!...He is knowledgable about all Motorsports.....And some people may not understand when he speaks "tongue in cheek"..which is a shame....Dave "gets" him when he does...and when Robin is on WindTunnel,those are the only times I remember seeing Dave really loosen up and let 'er rip...They play of each other really well!
I do agree Speed will probably never give him his own show because "they" think he is politically incorrect...they are soooo wrong